Ottawa developer warns against ‘blanket policies’ for developments around Central Experimental Farm

Theberge Baseline Road project
Developer Joey Theberge has filed a proposal to build three highrises at the site of site of the Fisher Heights Plaza strip mall, just south of the Central Experimental Farm.

An Ottawa developer who wants to build three residential highrises near the Central Experimental Farm said the city should continue to consider proposals in the area on a case-by-case basis as community groups and federal officials raise concerns about shadowing. 

Joey Theberge, owner of Theberge Homes, has filed a proposal with the city to build two 24-storey highrises and a 32-storey tower at 780 Baseline Rd., on the site of a strip mall that contains the original Lone Star Texas Grill. 

The site is located just south of the Central Experimental Farm, an agricultural research facility in the heart of the city that has been the focus of controversy for developers. 

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

On Wednesday, the city’s planning and housing committee approved a highrise proposal from Taggart Realty Management that would see two towers built at 1081 Carling Ave., across the street from the farm. 

Representatives from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) were at the meeting to raise concerns that shadows cast by the buildings would reach a significant portion of the farm lands, rendering them unusable for research purposes. 

Deputy minister Stefanie Beck told councillors that the AAFC would consider legal action if the project was approved. 

“Our concerns today should also be understood to extend to future development plans around the farm,” said Beck. “We are hoping not to have to take any such action, but we are losing access to research facilities that cost millions of dollars. If we’re being asked to mitigate, there’s a cost to that.”

Theberge said that while he does keep up with development news from other projects in the area, he can’t speak to Taggart’s case or any potential litigation. 

Still, he said he isn’t overly concerned. 

“I don’t have the same opinion that some community members have that precedents get set,” he said. 

But Theberge said he doesn’t agree with councillors who want clearer policies and restrictions around the experimental farm to prevent similar conflicts over future developments. 

“There were comments that they should be looking for a blanket policy around the farm,” he said. “I don’t agree with that. I think they’re site-specific locations. There are specific locations that are suitable for high-density, mid-density, and low-rise (projects) all across the city. If we just blanket anything around the farm, we’re going to lose a lot of opportunities.”

His property’s location on the corner of Baseline and Fisher Avenues is well suited to high-density development due to its location on the corner of two major roads, Theberge said. 

“If you look around the farm, there’s probably only a few locations where high density can occur,” he said. “You’re not going to get high density where it’s all low-rise housing. My site is one of only a few areas that can get high density.”

He added that because each site is unique, it’s impossible to apply a blanket height limit to all properties near the farm.

“You can’t put up towers everywhere and block everything, but there are certain locations where it’s suitable,” he said. 

The site is also located on the planned bus rapid transit route along Baseline Road. With a new LRT station also set to be built in the vicinity, both Baseline Road and Carling Avenue have been identified by the city as ideal areas for intensification, including housing. 

Theberge said it’s important that developments like his and Taggart’s are built to ensure the success of these transit plans. 

“I truly believe the (base rapid transit) is not a matter of if but of when,” he said. “I’m a believer, like other developers, that you need to build infrastructure before the stations pop up. I believe that quote, that if you build it they will come. You need to build demand before you put in billions of dollars in infrastructure.”

Theberge added that his company has been working on its proposal for about three years. Several changes to the design of the three towers have already been made to address a variety of concerns, including adjusting the height and shape of the buildings to minimize shadowing impacts on the farm, he said. 

“We’ve done three iterations in partnership with the city,” Theberge said. “When you change the building, we get new shadowing patterns. For us, the shadow impacts on the farm are really only prevalent in the winter months. We’re a very different orientation than Taggart is.”

Get our email newsletters

Get up-to-date news about the companies, people and issues that impact businesses in Ottawa and beyond.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.